Art Serotte

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High School Coach

For many student-athletes, the playing arena is only a temporary escape from an environment full of adult-sized challenges and obstacles, where life itself may be a daily struggle demanding grit and determination. In such circumstances, a coach wears many hats – teacher, counselor, motivator, comforter – pillar of strength. For over three decades, Art Serotte has worn those hats and others in preparing scores of student-athletes to face life head-on.

Serotte began a long career in public education as a physical education teacher at Schools 8, 53 and 42 in 1962. He eagerly accepted the challenge of a similar post at the new Woodlawn Junior High in 1963, and built an impressive resume as a basketball and softball coach, winning junior high championships in softball from 1964 to 1970 and basketball from 1965 to 1970. He also coached varsity football at Grover Cleveland High School starting in 1964, and in 1970 left Woodlawn to join the staff at Grover full-time.

When Serotte arrived at Grover as the youngest head coach (age 24) of a varsity sport in the history of the Buffalo school system, the school had a reputation as one of the toughest in the city. Undaunted, Serotte brought an enthusiastic brand of tough-love discipline to his street-wise charges, and soon turned around Grover’s athletic fortunes.

From Friday night bed-checks to constant academic monitoring, Serotte’s strict, but fair methods permeated all aspects of the athletic program, and his teams began to compile impressive results. The Presidents captured 12 Harvard Cup football championships during Art’s tenure (1964-1992), and produced a memorable 28-game winning streak in the early 1970s. Serotte’s gridiron squads posted 160 victories, 10th all-time on the local scene. His appointment as head basketball coach in 1978 paid immediate dividends, with a 16-4 season and the first of 10 sectional championships to compliment five Yale Cup titles and over 250 wins on the court. Serotte also coached track and cross-country, bringing his winning touch to those sports as well.

Discussions with “Coach” don’t dwell on these numbers of lofty accomplishments. They focus instead on an athletic program at Grover which enabled over 175 student-athletes to attend and graduate from college at all competitive levels. Serotte has always measured success not in terms of wins and losses, but in terms of his impact and influence on troubled teens who depended on him for guidance on and off the field, and the number of those who, upon beating the odds to achieve success, returned to say “Thanks, coach, I wouldn’t have made it without you.”

No hall of fame, including the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame, is complete without members like Serotte, who, in dedicating their lives to teaching youth how to succeed in sports, taught them the greater lesson of how to succeed in life.